What to do without salt

In last week’s column I walked through the steps of preserving a duck leg by curing it in maple syrup and cooking and storing it in its own fat. There are many things you can do with meat prepared in this style. Meat prepared in a way that resembles confit can be used in anything from a delicious savory spread (pâté), to a sauce or stew, or it can simply be enjoyed on its own.

In keeping with the Healthy Roots challenge and not using salt, there are some things to keep in mind to enhance the natural flavours of the foods you are cooking. To achieve this you need to cook with a lot more acid (sourness), bitterness, and natural sweetness. Preparing foods with this in mind will yield food that is more interesting to your taste buds in the absence of salt. This week’s recipe is a demonstration of being playful with the different taste receptors found on the palate.

Maple Duck with Tomato and Millet cooked in the style of Risotto

Risottos are traditionally made with a high-starch short or medium grain rice. To stay with the challenge, I will be using millet.

Millet is a gluten free ancient grain and is very good for your health. It is high in protein, antioxidants and fiber. Additionally, it can also help to reduce cholesterol and blood sugar.

As millet grows well both in Ontario and the Prairies, it can be considered a local power food similar in health benefits to quinoa without having to travel the extra miles. Given its local availability, the shelf prices of millet are also much lower in comparison to quinoa. In my experience, most bulk stores and health food stores have millet on offer, but it can be harder to find at larger chain grocers.

In this recipe I am using the tomatoes for my desired acidity (sourness), the maple duck confit for the bitterness (from the caramelization of the sugars) and sweetness, and the millet for its nuttiness to carry the rest of the flavours.


  • Duck fat
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • 2 parts Vegetable or meat stock/broth
  • 2 parts Canned Tomatoes
  • 1 part Hulled Pearl Millet
  • Maple Duck Confit


  1. Melt some duck fat in a deep pan and cook diced onions until soft. Add sliced garlic and cook for a few minutes more. Add millet to your pan and coat in fat, add more if needed, and cook until lightly toasted and aromatic.
  2. Add your canned tomatoes and stock or broth to cover the millet. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, stir frequently and always ensure there is enough liquid so that the pan does not dry up.
  3. Shred the duck meat and cook the millet until it is just tender, about 25-30 minutes. I prefer mine firm to the bite, others may prefer it soft and fluffy. Add your duck when there is five minutes of cooking time left and warm it through. The
  4. end result should be saucy, not soupy having most of the liquid being absorbed to cook the millet. It should move like a wave in the pan. You do not want the final product so stiff that it stands up on the plate.
  5. Give the pan a few big stirs and serve immediately.

Related Posts